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Russia at Play: Leisure Activities at the End of the Tsarist Era Hardcover – November 26, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


"McReynolds (Univ. of Hawaii) . . . has here turned her considerable talents to an investigation of pre-Revolutionary Russia's 'leisure time' activities. . . . In arguing that vibrant commercial values had penetrated an emerging sport, dramatic, nightclub, and cheap movie house culture, McReynolds again, as she has so often in the past, sheds new light on a neglected but important facet of Imperial Russian history. Summing up: Highly Recommended. Advanced undergraduates and graduate students."—G. E. Snow, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Choice, Sept. 2003.

"In her well-researched and stimulating book, Louise McReynolds brings firmly to our attention the late tsarist leisure industry and show show it can deepen our understanding of Russian culture and society. . . . The book also has more than fifty well-chosen illustrations: street scenes, sports photos, photo-portraits (especially of actors), cartoons, and promotional pictures of resorts."—Stephen Lovell, SEER 81:4, 2003

"Russia at Play is full of interesting information for students of culture of both the Imperial and the Soviet period, and it makes an important contribution to the discussion of Russian identity. . . . This thorough study of leisure makes a fascinating addition to our understanding of politics, gender, and daily life in the late Imperial period while simultaneously indicating many areas warranting increased research."—Tricia Starks, University of Arkansas, The Russian Review 63:1, Jan. 2004

"First and foremost it is a recovery of little-known stories of Russian leisure activities, an effort to 'resurrect' what has largely 'vanished' from historical memory. . . . This recovery of the past is often quite celebratory (the author's pleasure in discovering and telling these tales of Russians 'at play' is apparent), yet this appreciation has interpretive weight. Louise McReynolds argues, against the well-known contempt for commercial entertainment by contemporary culturalist intellectuals, that Russia's growing commercial mass culture offered citizens facing a rapidly changing modern society much of value. Above all, it offered Russians opportunities to orient themselves as individuals and social beings, to fashion and adapt new identities, and to find refuge."—Mark D. Steinberg, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Slavic Review 63:1, Spring 2004

"This volume is both a welcome contribution to the growing literature on the religious practices of Hispanic immigrants and a useful resource for reflecting on the theological implications of relgiosidad popular (religion of the people)."—John T. Ford, Catholic University of America, Religious Studies Review, January 2004, vol. 30, no. 1

"Louise McReynolds's book provides a vivid picture of a new side of pre-Revolutionary Russia: a dynamic and diverse mass culture of theater, film, night life, and restaurants that expressed the dreams and social identity of Russia's emerging middle-class."—Richard Wortman

"Louise McReynolds continues to amaze with her boundless curiosity and sparkling comparative and theoretical insights. Russia at Play buzzes with energy and comes to life in vivid pictorial scenes full of well-rounded human beings. It explores not the dark recesses of an unknown past, but the lighter side of life—hunting, combat sports, performance art, movies—in a long-needed re-creation of cultural and social practices among all classes in pre-revolutionary Russia. Readers will derive as much pleasure from this book as the author obviously did from writing it."—Richard Stites, Professor of History, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

"Louise McReynolds has given us a book on pre-Revolutionary Russian entertainment that is massively and inventively researched, clearly written, theoretically sophisticated, deeply comparative and, yes, entertaining. Setting her work in a modern, urban, and capitalist Russia, McReynolds presents a no-longer-missing middle class, engaged not with high culture and nation-saving but rather with sports, tourism, restaurants, movies, and cabaret life. She gives new meaning to the term 'party politics.'"—Robert Edelman, University of California, San Diego

About the Author

Louise McReynolds is Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of Russia at Play: Leisure Activities at the End of the Tsarist Era, Murder Most Russian: True Crime and Punishment in Late Imperial Russia, and The News under Russia's Old Regime.

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